Former Whitby MP in rape allegations

Sir Leon Brittan is being investigated by police in relation to historic allegations of rape
Sir Leon Brittan is being investigated by police in relation to historic allegations of rape

A former Whitby MP has been quizzed by police investigating an alleged rape.

Former Home Secretary Leon Brittan became the MP for Cleveland and Whitby in 1974 and was praised for his work with fishermen, farmers and the potash mine at Boulby.

Former Cleveland and Whitby MP Leon Brittan

Former Cleveland and Whitby MP Leon Brittan

Lord Brittan, now 74, is said to strongly deny the allegations that he raped a 19-year-old student at his central London flat in 1967.

The former Home Secretary was in his late 20s at the time of the incident.

Police investigating the allegations said the woman originally made a complaint in 2012, but believing the investigation was not moving quickly enough, twice contacted Labour MP Tom Watson, who has made allegations of widespread child abuse in Parliament.

Now aged 66, the alleged victim claims the assault took place following a blind date.

It is being investigated by officers from the Metropolitan Police’s Sexual Offences, Exploitation and Child Abuse Command.

Scotland Yard has confirmed that a man in his 70s was “interviewed under caution by appointment at a Central London location in connection with the allegation”.

The police force added that the man was not arrested and inquiries are ongoing.

It is believed the detectives who questioned the veteran Conservative politician – he was made a life peer in 2000 – are part of Scotland Yard’s Operation Fairbank inquiry team which was launched after Mr Watson’s claims.

Lord Brittan contested North Kensington twice before becoming an MP in 1974 for the newly-formed constituency of Cleveland and Whitby, before switching to Richmond in Yorkshire in 1983.

When he was promoted to become Treasury Chief Secretary, he was the youngest member of the Cabinet.

Later, as Home Secretary, he was the youngest in that job since Sir Winston Churchill. He quit the Cabinet in 1986 over the Westland helicopter affair.

Among the issues which Lord Brittan addressed during his time as MP for Whitby was changes of legislation to allow fishermen to claim employment benefits if they were unable to head out to sea for a long period.

Not afraid to fight for his constituents, in December 1978 he succeeded in saving Fryup farmer Alan Thurlow £400 after losing an identification card.

The following year he would press the Department of the Environment for an early decision on the proposed potash mine near Staithes.

A speech made to the House of Commons in March 1979 echoes today when he said: “Whatever one’s views on the desirability or otherwise of the project, I can see no useful purpose in interminable delays.

He added the possibility of a potash mine had implications of many kinds and people were awaiting the decision before embarking on ventures of their own.

In March 1983 the Whitby Conservative Women’s Branch bade farewell to the MP, with President Miss A. D. Crawford expressing thanks to Mr Brittan.

She said: “Mr Brittan has worked hard and served us in many ways - including the fishermen, the farmers and those in the potash mine.

“Mr Brittan will be greatly missed and we wish him all happiness and success in his new constituency.”

A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said the investigation was ongoing.